Georgia Driver's Licenses
Special issues for non U.S. citizens
February 15, 2008 - Updated 9/3/2015
The Georgia Department of Driver's Services (DDS) is only permitted to
issue Georgia driver's licenses, permits or identification cards to
persons who can prove they are lawfully present in the United
States. Licenses will only be issued for the period of authorized
stay in the U.S.
This is what you need to know:
- If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must make an application for a
license (or license renewal) in person
- You must present ORIGINAL documents reflecting your identity,
residence in Georgia, and authorized stay in the U.S. This
will generally include your passport and your I-94, with any
- You may apply to renew your license up to 150 days before it
- Driving in Georgia on an expired license, or without a license, is
a crime. The Georgia legislature is considering legislation to
make it a felony!
- As of January 1, 2008, the Georgia Department of Driver Services
confirms through SAVE that a non citizen is lawfully present prior
to issuing a license or permit.
is the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program
established by the USCIS. Its purpose is to verify the legal
status, and eligibility for certain benefits, of persons in the United
States. The USCIS maintains a database which is available to
agencies, including the Georgia Department of Driver's Services - SAVE.
Unfortunately, the USCIS does not maintain its data in a single real
time database. Rather, the USCIS uses a variety of legacy systems
- many of which do not communicate directly with each other - or with
any single database. Many USCIS systems are still essentially
manual - with information entered into data bases after the fact.
These many databases - of varying completeness and accuracy - are
periodically uploaded to SAVE. The result is that the SAVE
database is often out of date, often inaccurate and always incomplete.
SAVE and your driver's license
The Georgia DDS will query the SAVE database when you apply for a
license or license renewal. If your lawful entry into the United
States can be verified through SAVE, the DDS will examine your documents
to determine how long you are permitted to remain in the U.S. If
the SAVE system shows a period of admission shorter than your documents
- the documents are supposed to control.
If the DDS issues you a license with a shorter period of validity,
ask to speak to a supervisor. DDS regulations are that SAVE
controls determining if your are lawfully admitted to the U.S. - but
your documents determine the validity of your stay for driver's license
If your presence cannot be confirmed through SAVE, a copy of your
documents will be made and forwarded by the DDS to the USCIS for
confirmation. You will be asked to return to the DDS in 10 days to
check on the progress of your application. If confirmation is not
obtained at that time, you will be asked to contact the USCIS directly
to obtain verification of our status.
It can take 30 days to verify that your presence is lawful through
the DDS/USCIS normal processes.
What you can do to avoid/mitigate problems
- Apply for any license renewal early. Regulations of the DDS
allow you to apply as early as 150 days prior to the expiration of
your current license.
- Take the proper original documents with you when you apply for your license
- Insist - as much as possible - that your license be issued for the
full term of your admission in the U.S. (If your status
does not have an expiration - e.g. student with F-1 d/s - your
license will only be issued for one year.)
- If you are not in SAVE, consider making an appointment through the
system. You will want to request that DDS complete Form G-845.
You will want to take a copy of that form with you to the USCIS
If your license expires while your immigration status is pending
Georgia Law provides that compliance with SAVE is required for
issuance of a driver's license to a noncitizen. Ga. Code
40-5-21.2. However, Georgia law also provides that
"notwithstanding any other provision" of the law dealing with
licenses, a temporary license may be issued to a noncitizen to has valid
documentary evidence of their admission to the U.S. in a valid,
unexpired nonimmigrant status. Ga. Code
40-5-21.1. A copy of this law is
As of January 1, 2014, Georgia law was changed to specifically allow
issuance of a temporary drivers permit for 120 days to a noncitizen
whose Georgia driver's license has expired or will expire within 30 days
"who has filed a request for an extenison with the United States
Department of Homeland Security...."
Not all DDS offices are aware of this provision, but DDS regulations
have been updated to reflect that 120 extensions will be granted.
The DDS regulations is 375-3-2-.01(1)(c)(iii) and may be
found here. We have also copied
relevant regulations at the bottom of this page. You may want to
print them and take them with you when you apply for renewal.
We would like to keep abreast of what is happening in this
area. Please let us know about your experience in applying for a
license or renewal. Please let us know if you had a problem, if
you were able to resolve it - and how.
TITLE 40. MOTOR VEHICLES AND TRAFFIC
CHAPTER 5. DRIVERS' LICENSES
ARTICLE 2. ISSUANCE, EXPIRATION, AND RENEWAL OF LICENSES
O.C.G.A. § 40-5-21.1 (2015)
§ 40-5-21.1. Temporary licenses, permits, or special identification
cards; foreign licenses or identification cards as evidence of legal
presence in the United States; extensions
any other provision of this title, an applicant who presents in person
valid documentary evidence of:
(1) Admission to the United States
in a valid, unexpired nonimmigrant status;
(2) A pending or
approved application for asylum in the United States;
into the United States in refugee status;
(4) An approved
application for temporary protected status in the United States;
(5) Approved deferred action status;
(6) Other federal
documentation verified by the United States Department of Homeland
Security to be valid documentary evidence of lawful presence in the United
States under federal immigration law; or
(7) Verification of lawful
presence as provided by Code Section 40-5-21.2
may be issued a
temporary license, permit, or special identification card. Such temporary
license, permit, or special identification card shall be valid only during
the period of time of the applicant's authorized stay in the United States
or five years, whichever occurs first.
(b) A driver's license or
identification card issued by any state or territory which, on or after
July 1, 2006, authorized such driver's license or identification card to
be issued to persons not lawfully present in the United States may not be
accepted as evidence of legal presence in the United States.
Any noncitizen applicant whose Georgia driver's license or
identification card has expired, or will expire within 30 days, who has
filed, or on whose behalf has been filed, a request for an extension with
the United States Department of Homeland Security, or similar such federal
issuing agency, for time to remain lawfully within the United States shall
be issued a temporary driving permit or identification card valid for 120
days from the date of the expiration of his or her valid driver's license
or identification card. The noncitizen applicant shall be
required to present evidence of the application for extension by
submitting a copy or copies of documentation designated by the department.
A temporary driving permit or identification card shall be issued upon
submission of the required documentation and an application fee in an
amount to be determined by the department. Upon the expiration of the
temporary driving permit or identification card, no further consecutive
temporary permits or identification cards shall be authorized; provided,
however, application may be made following the expiration of an additional
valid Georgia driver's license or identification card.
Rules and Regulations, Department
of Drivers Services, Chapter 375-3-2
375-3-2-.01 Expiration of License and Identification Card: When
Licenses and Identification Cards May Be Renewed. Revised.
(a) Except as otherwise provided in this regulation, licenses and
identification cards issued to citizens of the United States expire on the
person’s birthday in the fifth (5th) or eighth (8th) year after issuance.
(1) Except as provided in Paragraph (c), any person who is not a
citizen of the United States who provides proof of lawful presence in the
United States that satisfies the requirements of O.C.G.A. §§40-5-21.1(a),
40-5-21.2 and Ga. Admin. Comp. Ch. 375-3-1-.02 and is otherwise eligible
for the issuance of a driver’s license or identification card may be
issued a temporary driver’s license, permit, or special identification
card. Such temporary driver’s license, permit, or special identification
card shall be valid only during the lesser of the period of time of the
applicant’s authorized stay in the United States as reflected on such
documentation or five (5) years, and shall reflect that it is issued for a
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1), the
Department shall not accept an employment authorization document as proof
of lawful presence if such person is subject to an order for removal from
the United States, an order of supervision, or who is otherwise determined
to not be lawfully present in the United States based upon information
provided by the Department of Homeland Security.
(i) Any person
who presents immigration documentation that does not bear an expiration
date shall be eligible for a temporary driver’s license, permit, or
special identification card valid for one (1) year unless the person’s
immigration documentation, as confirmed pursuant to O.C.G.A. §40-5-21.2,
indicates that he or she is an approved asylee or refugee.
and refugees holding verifiable immigration documentation thereof that
does not bear an expiration date shall be eligible for a temporary
driver’s license, permit, or special identification card valid for five
(iii) Non-citizen customers who
have a temporary driver’s license, permit, or special card that has
expired or will expire within thirty (30) days of making application for
renewal may be issued a temporary extension thereof valid for 120 days if
they present documentation showing that they have applied for, but not
received, an extension of their previously verified lawful immigration
(d) No temporary license, permit, or special
identification card issued pursuant to this regulation shall be renewed by
any means other than in person.
-for complete rule)